Anyone watching the TV news, particularly in the US, has to be trembling in fear that the radiation cloud from Japan will be heading their way. The radiation cloud doesn’t exist yet, but the newscasters know it is coming despite scientific doubt.
Why do they know it is coming? Because it also brings great ratings for the TV news.
Sensationalizing information to grab ratings and circulation is nothing new. The Yellow Journalism of the late 1800s was pretty much the same as TV today. Famously, then, when a reporter sent a telegram to William Randolph Hearst to tell him all was quiet in Cuba and “There will be no war.” Hearst responded “Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.” And the Spanish American War ensued partly because it sold papers.
Thankfully we have progressed. No more do we worry about selling papers. Now it is TV ratings. But the same techniques work as we have discussed before.
It is no enough to report on the devastating 9.0 Earthquake that hit Japan, and the subsequent even more devastation tsunami. To listen to the TV news in the US, a vast radiation cloud is soon to be floating across the narrow expanse of the wide Pacific Ocean (do they realize how vast that ocean is?) to kill everyone in the United States. The resulting panic has cleaned the shelves of iodine pills as people stock up to protect themselves.
The radiation cloud is a brilliant construction. It brings peril directly to the viewing audience and does not require empathy with a bunch of foreigners.
The News has done this before with the total death of the Gulf of Mexico as reported when the BP Spill totally crippled the entire Gulf Coast Region. And then was made worse by the Hurricane which took the pollution into an already weakened area. And okay, we also have to mention the dreaded Swine Flu/H1N1 pandemic.
Why are these melodramatic moments memorable? Well, they aren’t, because by and large, except for the BP Spill which didn’t quite measure up to the fear mongering, they didn’t happen. They were hyped and they boosted ratings at the time, but they fizzled.
There are no ethical barriers anymore to journalism. We have returned to the era of Yellow Journalism. Each anchor alerting us to more and more peril in hopes that we will watch their next news cast. Even when experts say there is no looming problem, like with the non-existent poison radiation cloud coming from Japan. The anchors will not let facts get in the way of a sensational story.
The long term downside to this is that there may emerge a real story that people should take seriously. And they won’t. Anyone in the news recall the Aesop’s fable: The Boy Who Cried Wolf?
And here is breaking news…
Radiation clouds in Japan will, without any doubt, create giant monsters from lizards exposed to that radiation. It has been known to happen before (Godzilla). And the TV anchors are thanking their gods because we have archived footage of these monsters attempting to tear down Tokyo television transmitters. Armies of these giant lizards will soon be marching on Tokyo and from there, the real Battle for LA will begin. Footage at 11!